Becoming an American citizen and putting down roots in Florida can be a wonderful and fulfilling achievement, but the experience may feel incomplete if you have children who were not born in the United States and are not citizens. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service explains that children of parents who are citizens typically acquire citizenship by birth or through certain procedures before they turn 18 years old. Those procedures differ depending on whether the child lives in the U.S. or outside of it.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) lays out certain conditions for children living in the United States to automatically acquire citizenship. The child must have at least one parent that is a U.S. citizen. The parent can be a citizen by virtue of birth or naturalization. The child must also be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and is in the physical and legal custody of the parent who is a citizen. Finally, the child must be younger than 18 years old.
Acquiring citizenship is similar for children who live in another country. The U.S. government permits children living abroad to be naturalized if they have a citizen parent and are in the legal and physical custody of that parent. However, in the event the citizen parent is deceased, the child can be in the custody of someone who does not object to the child applying for citizenship.
A child living abroad also has to come to the United States to proceed with the naturalization. Federal law mandates that the child should be lawfully admitted to the U.S. and be physically in the country when the application for naturalization is approved, and also when naturalization commences. The citizen parent of the child or a citizen grandparent must also meet specific presence requirements in the U.S. or within an outlying possession of the country.
There may be other factors that complicate or change these requirements. For example, children of a U.S. military service member can complete the process of becoming a citizen outside the United States. You may need to ask an immigration attorney to clarify unclear issues. Because the needs of immigrants and their family members vary, only read this article as information and not as legal advice.